Annie’s point of view

國小英師的逆流而上- 從培養英語閱讀品味開始自我提昇並保持英語戰鬥力 PART 2

 2013-12-22 19.30.07

身為老師的人生情調似乎很容易和這2種形容詞劃上等號,1是安逸, 2是無趣, 若你不幸是公立國小老師, 那麼再加一條, 3是聽話。

因此當有個知名雜誌業務說 ‘ 我們雜誌都會為老師精選國內外雜誌期刊的必讀文章或書籍,讓你不用費心就得知天下事又追得上社會脈動’, 我想當然爾冷冷回應 ‘不必,我並不喜愛也不須要別人幫我過濾書籍’。

但我倒很喜歡搶在台灣出版社之前看出一個故事的價值與潛力,那種’哈我就知道’的快感稍稍補償我完全沒有偏財運的失落。

有一年在雪梨機場候機時隨手買了本封面很酷書名很吸引我的書, 沒想到就深深陷入其中了,我一向喜愛犯罪小說, 等到下機時已看了約1/3; 後來在新加坡機場又買了第2集, 最後3集全部看完時, 台灣剛好開始引進他的書,也就是之後相當轟動還拍成電影的千禧年系列Millennium-龍紋身的女孩。不幸的是,作者Stieg Larsson寫完這3本書後就暴斃身亡英年早逝。Larsson本職為新聞記者, 千禧年系列也相當程度忠實的反映瑞典犯罪與社福體系畸型的共生關係。身為女性又是新聞主修, 我對Larsson的世界開始著迷。附帶一提,我們家總愛在餐桌上東扯西聊一番,罵完政治人物後接下來八卦一下辦公室裏學校的人事物,最後update一下最近看得書情節到那裏了; 我爸爸因為被我的書評介紹的心癢難耐,因此發奮圖強抱著字典啃完這3本大部頭的書!

有些書開啟了你對異國的想像, 千禧年系列就是這麼領著我在深冬踏上瑞典之旅。在斯德哥爾摩舊城區裏的一個小小雜貨店裏, 和異常熱情的瑞典主人聊天時, 她也有些訝異的問我 ” So why do you come here in this season? Most tourists would steer away from this part of Europe. “ “ I like to visit places where most people don’t.” 我沒說出口的是, 還有跟著一本書按圖索驥的傻勁。

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選擇冬季是因為千禧年裏的主角在職業生涯最低潮時接下了瑞典首富家族的案子,書中大部份的場景多是冷得要人命的零下低溫。沒有在遊客稀少的冬季,怎麼能體驗Stieg Larsson筆下冷酷中帶著執著熱血的瑞典精神呢? 斯德哥爾摩市政府觀光局因應推出Girl with the dragon tatoo’ 的城市遊行程, 於是, 我就拿著這張地圖, 一路回味書中風景。

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我先去作者生前寫作時常去的咖啡館小小的朝聖一下, 這同時也是書中女主角出奇不意的向男主角借貸一大筆錢的地方。其實只是個很不突出的社區小咖啡館, 但是能走進我最喜愛的作家平日思考寫作的地方, 實在很讓我滿足!

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龍紋身的女孩行腳地圖

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我也沿著書中主角的行動路線觀察這個城市, 這是我開始注意北歐作家的起點.我一向很喜愛犯罪小說, 看完千禧年系列讓你會忍不住鬆了口氣, 也許還未高度工業發展的台灣在某一方面仍是相當淳樸的, 至少台灣是相對而言治安良好的國家, 犯罪層次也還相當低。

另一位新興的北歐作家Jo Nesbo則來自挪威。我看得第一本 Jo Nesbo的作品是The leopard。第一頁就讓人倒足胃口的描述2名女性受害者口腔中24個針孔痕跡讓警方百思不得其解兇手犯案的方法與動機。爸爸沒看幾頁舉手投降, 他實在受不了這麼血淋淋的故事。嗯..我並不嗜血, 但是, 我喜愛 Larsson 和 Nesbo一樣, 人性刻劃深刻, 女性角色多元, 是最佳的床邊故事啊!

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最新消息

Larsson 的千禧年系列為他賺進3千萬英磅的版稅, 可惜他本人沒能活著享受。千禧年全球性的成功也是他和出版社編輯始料未及的。為了延續這燒得正旺的千禧年系列, 一位瑞典作家也打算用Larsson遺留下來的部份散稿創作出第4本千禧傳奇; 對此Larsson的多年親密夥伴Gabrielsson 強烈反對, 並聲稱任何藉由稀釋/仿做的方法重新複製藝術創作者的方法都是過度商業中心, 下流且不堪的。Larsson 從未迎娶Gabrielsson, 因他的記者背景過去曾揭露許多弊案而樹立相當多的敵人, 同時他也害怕Gabrielsson因此成為瑞典親納粹組織的目標。在這篇文章中還說在Larsson 年方50身亡後, Gabrielsson 下咒語願那些在Larsson生前設計陷害他的敵人都永不安寧。看來,作家的真實生活與筆下人生一樣精采刺激!!

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我一直覺得台灣充斥了過多速成的,功利主義的外語教/學書籍, 卻少了些自主的熱血的外語學習引導。學習的目的,對我來說, 樂趣與放鬆多於實用價值, 但當兩者能攜手並進, 這不是最棒的動機了嗎?

本篇顯然為歐洲篇,下篇來寫澳洲非洲篇:-)

Changing lanes and marching on- what I have learned from working with YLs

In my opinion, there are two kinds of people that work like mirrors and oftentimes they unknowingly help us learn more about ourselves. Our partner can do that, he or she reacts on our thoughts and actions and in a way, they reflect our image. Our students can also do that, they are the great reminders of ideas and concepts you’ve taken for granted as time goes by. They help you realize what you are good at and areas you need to work on. Be it adults or children, what we teachers can learn from our students are usually the key for better teaching and learning.

I’m undergoing a transitional phase in my career since this semester, walking away from my comfort zone as an EFL teacher for 10 years and start fresh as a homeroom teacher is no easy step. It’s a bazzar feeling to start learning to teach like a NQT after 10 years but the experience is truely amazing. I learned more about these ‘little people’ and in a way my students taught me how to fit in the new role. I felt like seeing teaching from fresh perspectives and learned quite a lot from my children. So to celebrate my halfway up to the first year as a homeroom teacher, I’d like to share some thoughts about teaching little devils young learners.

Remix teaching material

Textbook is usually the last thing I have kids to put out at the end of the class. I believe that textbook, regardless of its formality and quality, is supposed to be a guideline, a tangible object for students/teachers to fall back on; while real learning takes place in a more ‘untangible and messier’ way. I often remind myself to embed at least three different teaching medium in a 40-minute session. The combinations can be various; they can be good-old-fashioned blackboard drills, interactive whiteboard games, or individual writing games. It’s the teachers’ interpretation of the language material that connects the textbook with real life. The ritual of opening the book at the end of the class serves the purpose of organizing/rephrasing prior ideas into clear concepts and logics. At the meantime, it’s also a good idea to do some individual quiet work so children have the time to reflect on learnt material.

Embed learning strategies in teaching

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Have children organize teaching material with graphics and diagrams. You can always start from a simple T-chart then gradually progress to more complicated charts such as a Venn diagram. The practice not only reinforces vocabulary but also personalize the language material. Moreover, learning strategies were embedded so children can start developing their own learning system. And it’s all part of the scheme of nurturing successful learners’ autonomy. Visual clues should be put out all year round and update them in an appropriate manner.

Having fun is always the best motivation

Little people learn from doing, they learn from enjoying the sense of achievement. For children, singing and dancing is always the best trick to get them involved in the class, however, it’s the ‘extra mile’ you lead them to afterwards decides if the fun part compliments the learning. Even the roll-calling task at the beginning of the semester can lead to a meaningful and active learning process(Read sample lesson plan here and here).

Step back and wait for it

For many Taiwanese EFL teachers, the challenge we face everyday is that true beginners sit side by side with advanced students, yet they share the same classroom, under the guidance of the same teacher in the same time frame. Our long tradition of cramming school system, meaning after-school English education, makes sure public school teachers have a hard time setting reasonable goals and make effective lesson plans. After years of battling with the reality, I finally realized that teachers also need to step back and let the material sit in for a while. Not just for the students, but also for the teachers, to have time to do individualized learning activities. This is especially important if the routine learning hour does not meet the requirement of sufficient language exposure. Patience and keen observance can help you pick up the holes and patch them up before they got too big.

Helping them to take ownership of the language

Needless to say, this is where language learning started to make sense for learners. However, for YLs, especially in an EFL country, taking the ownership of the language material may require a long time. In this case, try customizing the available material. I’ve had my kids grouped in teams made their own team songs AND draw matching posters (Read OUP project here). We end up creating 5 different lyrics and accompanying posters from 1 song. My children even claimed, ‘It’s MY song!’ Additionally, making alphabet books with local themes also encourages applying the language plus easier to do differentiated teaching (See alphabet books sample here).

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Teachers need to experience the ‘FIRSTS’ as well

After years of teaching in the same context/position, we all need a break from fixed routine and maybe a couple of new thinking caps. If changing lanes is too dramatic for you, try to do experiments in your class. Try out the methods/projects you’ve long known exist but never get to put them into practice. Engage in local/international-wised projects so you can do your lesson planning from a new angle(See my International Exchange Project here). I’m especially fond of this interview of Jamie Lee Curtis’ , where she said that we adults should have our share of ‘firsts’ to ‘celebrate the everyday bravery’. So I’m embracing my journey as a new teacher start from 2012. I was reborned again in that sense! Haha!

Jamie Lee Curtis Interview

English for late boomers補救教學分享

I’ve got a last minute call to do a presentation over remedial teaching in the subject of English. Luckily I’ve been blogging about my catch up program at the last school year so retrieving those data is no problem. Compiling them, however, is never easy.

 

24th EFL/ESL blog carnival!

Well, it has been several weeks since school started and I’m still as busy as a bee!

But it’s the carnival time of the year again! This is the third time I submitted my blog post to the carnival and I’ve since enjoyed so many more interesting reading and ideas of teachers from different parts of the world!

The theme this time is about back-to-school ideas/ice breakers/ fillers. I’m very happy to be included again! Thanks to A Journey in TEFL’s organization, there are a bunch of good readings waiting to be ponder and experimented!

I try to document things that went well in my classroom as often as possible but sometimes it is very difficult to just sit down and write! Gotta write more often and believe me writing IS therapeutic!

Do check out the 24th EFL/ESL blog carnival for lots of practical ideas! Mine is on the first of the list:-)

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Potluck Party for English teachers PPET補救教學分享會

First I’d like to specify the context of this post. 1. this is for English teachers service in public sector 2. this is aiming for elementary school teachers.

How many times you joined a workshop/seminar and hoping to learn something you can take away only left with wonders like ‘ah…that’s fancy but …how do I adapt that in my daily teaching?’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting workshops/seminars are anything less, instead, they tend to keep this business vibrant if the goal is set clear and the speaker knows the industry and the real world. They are, however, tend to talk in general principle, and sometimes worse, in line with certain ‘official flavor’.

What I found interesting in ETs’ PD here in my district is, English education is always in the spotlight yet the supportive system behind it is unfortunately limited and scarce.

One day I had this  idea of organizing a potluck party for English teachers in Tauyuan area. The potluck party means every teacher shows up with at least one successful teaching method/lesson plan/material…etc. and do a ‘show and tell’ with fellow colleagues.

I put this in my FB status and immediately my very resourceful teacher friend Caroline second the idea. With at least one person sharing the same idea with me, I asked the  staff  at school to register the event in our teacher’s PD website and together Caroline and I started to spread the word.

We’ve got some really positive feedback from a few reps of publishers but overall the feedback from teachers wasn’t that great. We’ve got only 5 participants signed up until the day before the Potluck Party, which is fine with me since I think workshop nowadays emphasizes too much on the ‘material delivery’ instead of the ‘know-how’. With small-scaled workshop like this, everyone get to tell his/her story and idea in an easier pace and more importantly, we get to learn from each other.

On the day of the Potluck Party, 10 people showed up.

Caroline showed up with her heavy duty gear to carry all her stuff…a lot of contents have been taken out and placed on the table when I took this picture and poor Caroline had to carry this on her own for three floors….with high heels on!!!

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I’ve organize everyone’s input here via google doc (click here if you’d like to make this list longer!) and hoping we’ll have a sequel for this Potluck Party for ETs.

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I’ve started to see the grassroots power in teacher’s professional development. Facebook, twitter and blogs are all evident of teachers taking charge of their own learning. By networking, teachers learn much more from each other and a sense of belonging grows. Let me emphasize this again, I’m not saying that seminars/workshop that involves hundreds of  participants and A-listers aren’t doing good, instead, I still attend to events like that. What I’m trying to say is, ETs here are usually the loner in campus, we are not in the same ‘blood’ as our colleagues at school. Our very tight schedule and workload tend to trap us in classrooms with piles of papers/workbooks in long hours. Sometimes we need to know if we’re doing things in the right way, or, if there’s a better way to do it.

By sharing our ideas and the context behind it, we get to learn different strategies to adapt in different situations/schools. It is also a great opportunity for teachers to nurture their inner self as a leader. We can do so much good not just for our pupils but also our colleagues!

And don’t we all, I mean most of us, found this tiny sense of achievement in sharing our little triumph in the classroom?

Here’s the short clip of the wonderful day I spent with my fellow teachers. I wish there’ll be a sequel to our PPET!

Classroom management_focusing on the learning

I recently read this interesting discussion thread via TES. The question is “What’s the best bit of advice you got… when just starting out.”

One of the teacher made a fantastic list that caught my eyes.

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I especially love the 3rd one.

I can still remember vividly my first year in the Kingdom of Beast.  The open curse and confronts between teachers and students (and yes, I was unfortunately the person of interest in some cases)  was just plain frustrating and depressing.

I wish I knew more about classroom management then but still it’s all part of learning.

As my teaching years adds up, I’m getting better at what I do and often times be more aware of what I just did and what I could have done if the same thing shall happen again. I gradually learned that classroom management IS the key before any learning taking place. Sometimes it’s far more important than equipped with a great lesson plan or engaging activities.

I also enjoyed the video from Teachers TV very much. They have this special section where they invited a behaviour specialist Sue Cowley into a secret room to observe a class from hidden cams. Her job is to pinpoint the problem area where teachers can work on and give immediate feedback via a earpiece carried by the teacher. So the teacher can immediately take on different strategy upon Sue’s suggestion.

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In this particular episode. The teacher has problems with a little boy who is constantly disruptive and acquire her attention all the time. I found myself relating the video with my class 4A. I was sometimes ‘glued’ to a particular group for the same reason. And I sometimes have problem of pacing my class, too.

It’s nice to have a mentor like her to watch your class and give immediate feedback:-) and, what a nice way to brush up your English at the same time!